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He was thought to have a healing fracture of the collarbone by the treating radiologist and the timing of the fracture was said to be 10 – 21 days before admission to hospital. Mother provided an account of him climbing out of his bouncer and landing on his chest on the hard floor. She could not remember the exact date but thought it was about 2 months before admission to hospital so outside the 10 -21 day window.
After the post-mortem the collarbone was sent to a leading Consultant Histopathologist and the parties were told that there would be a significant delay before receiving that report. The court instructed paediatrician and radiologist both agreed that mother’s history of a fall could have caused the fracture, but it was outside the time frame and there was concern about the level of discomfort exhibited by the child as reported by the mother. The LA was going to seek to withdraw proceedings in any event but on the eve of the hearing the report from the Consultant Histopathologist arrived – confirming that the healing reaction seen was not to a fracture but to a trauma and the time frame was longer and mother’s explanation provided a complete explanation.
There was no basis upon which threshold was met and rather than allowing the LA to withdraw proceedings, the Judge dismissed them. The case reminds practitioners that expert opinions are not determinative, medical science is not infallible and care needs to be taken in considering the entirety of the evidence in every case. The Judge reiterates that she has faith in the system but perhaps most importantly reminds practitioners of the emotional cost to families in this situation.
Written by Gemma Farrington.